Sen. Jeff Flake’s smile disappeared for a moment as he remembered the June shooting that wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and several others during a congressional baseball practice.

Flanked by several Arizona sheriffs, including Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, that were on hand for a ceremony honoring Flake for risking his life to apply first aid to people who had been shot, Flake said he was grateful but that he wasn’t worthy of the attention.

“I don’t think (my actions) are deserving of it all,” said the Arizona Republican. “The heroes that day were the Capitol police who were there.... I would not be here today if it wasn’t for their heroic efforts.”

The Arizona Sheriffs’ Association and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department disagreed, giving the senator two awards for his actions.

“Without regard for his safety, Sen. Flake went to the assistance and helped wounded colleagues, potentially exposing himself to further danger during a dynamic and still unfolding situation,” Napier said before presenting him with the awards.

Flake said he talked to Scalise on Tuesday, saying his fellow senator is back to work, albeit from a rehabilitation center.

“He is back on the job,” Flake said. “He is doing better and better every day.”

On June 14, a man shot Scalise, R-Louisiana, and four others while they were practicing for a congressional baseball game for charity. Scalise was the most seriously injured.

According to press reports at the time, Flake helped treat one wounded aide who managed to get to a dugout during the shooting. Flake then ran onto the field and applied pressure to Scalise’s wound. After Scalise was being treated by paramedics, Flake used Scalise’s phone and made the first call to Scalise’s wife to notify her of the shooting so she wouldn’t learn of it through the media.

Flake said he believes President Trump’s comments Monday night were a good step forward in easing political tensions after the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in violence and the death of a counterprotestor.

“We’ve seen too much of this,” Flake said, noting he has visited two colleagues in the hospital after they were shot, reminding reporters he rushed to visit then U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson, after the mass shooting here in 2011.

“We can’t ascribe the worst motives to our political opponents. We’ve got to find a way to get along,” Flake said.

Flake, an aide confirmed, was scheduled to spend Tuesday afternoon in Tucson, meeting with constituents, and would not attend Trump’s rally in Phoenix.

Asked if he had to mow the lawn again rather meet with the president — the excuse he gave for not attending Trump’s inauguration — Flake demurred. “My son is doing that,” he said, chuckling.

Trump has called Flake “toxic” on Twitter and has stated his support for Kelli Ward, who is running against the senator in next year’s GOP primary.

Flake said not to read too much into his plans to spend a day in the Old Pueblo.

He said of Trump’s rally: “This isn’t an official event. It is a campaign rally. I don’t think you can read anything into that.”

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.